Yesterday, Ivo Vegter wrote about the recent attacks on Israelis by Palestinians imbued with a hatred for Israelis and Jews. This article deals with one of the key issues that influence terrorist attacks in Israel.

The European Union has recently delayed the payment of millions of euros in annual aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA) after Hungary’s EU delegate accused PA school textbooks of containing ‘antisemitism’, according to the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz.

Oliver Varhelyi, a Hungarian diplomat and the Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement in the European Commission in Brussels, has proposed that aid to the PA requires the removal of ‘antisemitism and incitement’ elements in textbooks taught in Palestinian schools.

The delayed payment amounts to annual aid of €214m (R3 891 000 000) until a final decision is made.

An investigation into antisemitism in PA textbooks was first commissioned by Federica Mogherini, then EU foreign affairs representative in 2019. The study was conducted by the Georg Eckert Institute in Germany.

The study — almost 220 pages and completed in February 2021— was released in June 2021 by the European Commission, which pays for the textbooks, according to the Jerusalem Post and German newspaper Bild, both of which had obtained copies of the report.

The European Commission told the Jerusalem Post that it ‘takes this study seriously and will act on its findings as appropriate.’

The EU planned to work with the PA to promote compliance with UNESCO standards on peace, tolerance and nonviolence, which the Commission said were non-negotiable.

The Commission also reiterated ‘its unequivocal commitment to the fight against anti-Semitism’.

The 156 Palestinian Authority textbooks and 16 teachers’ guides that were studied showed ‘an antagonism towards Israel’ — with ‘frequent use of negative attributions in relation to the Jewish people’, the study found. 

The books reviewed were mostly from 2017 to 2019 but included 18 from 2021.

There was a ‘conscious perpetuation of anti-Jewish prejudice, especially when embedded in the current political context,’ according to the New York Post’s review of the report. One religious studies textbook asks students to discuss the ‘repeated attempts by the Jews to kill the prophet’.

’Resistance’ is a recurring theme, along with calls for a revolution; with one book carrying a photo of five masked men toting machine guns, and calling them ‘Palestinian revolutionaries’. 

The United Nations Refugee and Works Agency (UNRWA) is the main provider of education to primary school children under the aegis of the PA’s Ministry of Education and Higher Education. 

How can a United Nations agency play such destructive role in the politics of the region?

The Palestinians are the only group of people in the world who have a dedicated ‘refugee’ agency to look after them. This has resulted in the provision of decades of aid, creating an unhealthy dependency and perpetuating the Palestinian refugee crisis. Unlike with any other definition of ‘refugee’, UNRWA allows the status of Palestinian refugees to be passed down ad infinitum. 

Every other refugee grouping in the world is looked after by the UN High Commission for Refugees and its mandate is always temporary. UNRWA has its mandate renewed year after year. This bizarre situation is rooted in the Arab/Israeli War of 1948. UNRWA was intended to assist both Arab and Jewish refugees. As Israel settled all Jewish refugees, it was left to support Arab refugees under the diktat of the Arab states, which exploited the lack of settlement for political reasons.

Israelis fear that antisemitism in schools will hamper the ability of both sides to negotiate peace, as the PA exposes its children in their schooling and in the media to virulently antisemitic messages. Children grow up seeing Israelis and Jews as the enemy that must be destroyed. 

@LahavHarkov

This picture from a Palestinian textbook portrays the Jews working to destroy the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. It is a pernicious trope.

There is no truth in it but it is used every year to galvanise protests, particularly in the lead-up to the holy month of Ramadan. In 2021 it contributed to the war between Israel and Gaza.

According to the report, a maths textbook uses an image of Palestinians hitting Israeli soldiers with slingshots to describe Newton’s second law of motion.

The Islamic honorific bestowed on Muslims who embrace death in the cause against Islam’s enemies is ‘shahid’ or ‘martyr’. It appears throughout the textbooks. One ninth-grade maths book uses the term to refer to Fatah leader Khalil al-Wazir, who led the 1978 massacre of 38 Israeli civilians, including 13 children, according to Bild.

Most maps used in the textbooks entirely erase the state of Israel, dubbing it a ‘Zionist occupation’ and calling the entire region of Israel, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, ‘Palestine’.

Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in response to the findings of the report that they ‘prove Israel’s consistent claim that incitement is constantly present in Palestinian Authority textbooks’.

‘This is a claim that Israel has raised with the EU and its member states for many years.’ 

UN Watch, an NGO which monitors the UN’s approaches to human rights breaches, urged governments at an international donor conference for UNRWA in Brussels in November 2021 to demand accountability from UNRWA about allegations of antisemitism and incitement to terrorism by more than 100 teachers and other staffers.

UNRWA has reportedly suspended several of its employees after a report by UN Watch exposed over 100 UNRWA educators and other employees who have publicly propagated violence and antisemitism on social media, in breach of the agency’s proclaimed policy of ‘zero tolerance’ for incitement.

The suspension of UNRWA employees only came to light after the outraged reaction of Palestinians in Gaza was reported in Arabic-language media, including Al Jazeera and Al Araby, as a former UNRWA staffer – who was fired for his own ties to the Hamas terrorist organisation – accused the agency of caving in to ‘Zionist pressure’ for taking measures against the employees.

UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer said: ‘I came here to Brussels today to urge our governments attending the UNRWA international donors’ conference to finally hold the agency to account for its teachers who poison the minds of Palestinian schoolchildren with incitement to antisemitism and terrorism.

‘I’m here urging delegations from the US, EU, Canada, UK, France, Germany, Sweden, Netherlands, Italy, Australia, Switzerland and many other countries to demand that their money to UNRWA – our taxpayer funds – not go to teachers who glorify Hitler.’

UN Watch welcomed the statement by Canadian Assistant Deputy Minister Sandra McCardell who underlined ‘the critical importance of UNRWA upholding humanitarian principles including neutrality in its work.’

‘Commitment to humanitarian principles, including neutrality, is unwavering for UNRWA,’ said Deputy Commissioner-General Leni Stenseth, addressing critiques by UN Watch and others.

She claimed, however, that ‘there are extraordinarily few verified breaches of neutrality’.

Neuer countered this. ‘The opposite is true. UNRWA has failed to respond to UN Watch’s August report on incitement, and failed to respond to our detailed follow-up letter in October to Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini.’

‘The agency has failed to provide even minimal transparency as to who it investigated from the list of 113 antisemitic teachers provided by UN Watch.’

UN Watch asked UNRWA to reveal which six of the 113 named employees were reportedly suspended.

The Biden administration recently restored more than $300 million in US funding for UNRWA, contingent on a Framework Agreement in which the agency promised ‘clear, consistent and prompt administrative or disciplinary action for staff violations of UNRWA’s Neutrality Framework.’

UN Watch is now calling for implementation of this pledge. ‘UNRWA owes basic transparency and accountability to its donors before they transfer vast sums of taxpayer dollars,’ said Neuer.

‘It’s time that UNRWA honors its solemn pledge to the US and other donors to apply a real “zero tolerance” policy, which means ensuring there is no place in the agency for teachers and other staff who incite racism, hate and violence,’ said Neuer.

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editor

Rants professionally to rail against the illiberalism of everything. Broke out of 17 years in law to pursue my classical music passion and run the Joburg Philharmonic, but had to work with musicians. Working with composer Karl Jenkins was a treat. Used to camping in the middle of nowhere. Have 2 sons for whom no girl is good enough, says mom.